The End of Stoneman (May 26, 1863)

Alfred Pleasonton. At Gettysburg Maj. Frank Haskell described him as "quite a nice looking dandy" (Library of Congress).

Alfred Pleasonton. At Gettysburg Maj. Frank Haskell described him as “quite a nice looking dandy” (Library of Congress).

When Joe Hooker took command of the Army of the Potomac he appointed George Stoneman to command his reorganized cavalry. Stoneman, however, had not met Hooker’s expectations during the Chancellorsville campaign. His replacement would be Alfred Pleasonton. The George mentioned in this letter is Meade’s son, who will now be serving on his staff.

George’s appointment as Aide-de-Camp and Captain arrived yesterday.

We have nothing new; everything is quiet on our side. I am looking for a movement on the part of the enemy that will stir us up pretty soon. Stoneman is off on leave, and I don’t think will return here again. He does not want to, and Hooker does not want him back. Hooker is very severe on him, and says his raid amounted to nothing at all; that he was eight days going and only two coming back, and many other things of this kind tending to disparage Stoneman.

Only one officer (Reynolds) has as yet answered my circular letter, and he says: “Your opinion was decided and emphatic for an advance at daylight.” The attempt to fasten on me the responsibility of withdrawing the army is one of the shallowest inventions that Hooker could have devised, which, if he ever brings to a public issue, must recoil on him.

There are many things I would like to tell you, but cannot at present; but I have no doubt in due time they will all be made public. I have no doubt the Administration has determined to sustain Hooker, and to this I do not object, as I really believe he will do better next time, and still think there is a great deal of merit in him.

Meade’s letter taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 1, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), pp. 381-2. Available via Google Books.

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Measles (May 15, 1863)

Meade’s son, George, belonged to the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry (Rush’s Lancers) and was going to take part in George Stoneman’s attempt to get behind Lee’s lines before the battle of Chancellorsville. But George fell ill with a severe case of measles, a very real concern in the nineteenth century, and was sent back.

In his letter of May 12 Meade mentioned a meeting with Pennsylvania’s Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin. Here he writes about the unexpected consequence of that meeting. It would help drive a wedge between Meade and Joseph Hooker, the commander of the Army of the Potomac. I have to think that Meade was either incredibly naïve or perhaps being disingenuous when he says that he thought he was merely expressing his views privately to Curtin, who was, after all, the governor of Pennsylvania.

I received to-day your letter of the 12th instant, advising me of George’s arrival at home, which relieved me greatly, although I only yesterday learned of his being sick and having gone to Washington. In utter ignorance of his being sick, and supposing him with his regiment, I saw Hooker and got the order issued assigning him to duty on my staff. It was only my accidentally meeting Lieutenant Furness, of George’s regiment, on Stoneman’s staff, who first told me George had been very sick on the expedition, but that he was better, and that he (Furness) had seen George and Benoni Lockwood both in the cars on their way to Washington.

I have been very much worried to-day by very extraordinary conduct on the part of Governor Curtin. He came to see me, and in the familiarity of private conversation, after expressing himself very much depressed, drew out of me opinions such as I have written to you about General Hooker, in which I stated my disappointment at the caution and prudence exhibited by General Hooker at the critical moment of the battle; at his assuming the defensive, when I thought the offensive ought to have been assumed; and at the withdrawal of the army, to which I was opposed. This opinion was expressed privately, as one gentleman would speak to another; was never intended for the injury of General Hooker, or for any other purpose than simply to make known my views. Imagine, then, my surprise when General Hooker, who has just returned from Washington, sent for me, and said that General Cadwalader had told him that Governor Curtin had reported in Washington that he (General Hooker) had entirely lost the confidence of the army, and that both Generals Reynolds and Meade had lost all confidence in him. Of course, I told Hooker that Governor Curtin had no warrant for using my name in this manner. I then repeated to Hooker what I had said to Governor Curtin, and told him that he knew that I had differed with him in judgment on the points above stated, and that he had no right to complain of my expressing my views to others, which he was aware I had expressed to him at the time the events were occurring. To this Hooker assented and expressed himself satisfied with my statement.

Meade’s letter taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 1, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), pp. 375-6. Available via Google Books.

Sucking Up (April 11, 1863)

On April 9, 1863, Alfred Waud sketched President Lincoln as he and various Union generals reviewed the Army of the Potomac. Someone has clipped off Joe Hooker's head. Click on the image for a larger version (Library of Congress).

On April 9, 1863, Alfred Waud sketched President Lincoln as he and various Union generals reviewed the Army of the Potomac. Someone has clipped off Joe Hooker’s head. Click on the image for a larger version (Library of Congress).

George Meade was an ambitious man. That’s obvious even in his edited letters, which appeared in print as The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army in 1913. The unedited versions show even more clearly how much Meade aspired to reach a position to which he felt entitled. He often expressed his ambitions in his letters to his wife. In this one he amusingly details some of his efforts to ingratiate himself with Abraham Lincoln when the president visited the Army of the Potomac. (It’s possible that Meade is the only person to refer to Mary Todd Lincoln as “amiable.)

The Lancers are the cavalry regiment to which Meade’s son, George, belonged. Stoneman was George Stoneman, commander of the army’s cavalry corps.

Major General George Stoneman, who commanded the cavalry corps (Library of Congress).

Major General George Stoneman, who commanded the cavalry corps (Library of Congress).

The President has now reviewed the whole army, and expresses himself highly delighted with all he has seen. Since our review, I have attended the other reviews and have been making myself (or at least trying so to do) very agreeable to Mrs. Lincoln, who seems an amiable sort of personage. In view also of the vacant brigadiership in the regular army, I have ventured to tell the President one or two stories, and I think I have made decided progress in his affections. By-the-by, talking of this vacancy, I have been very much gratified at the congratulations I have received from several distinguished general officers on the prominence that has been given my name in connection with this appointment. The other day, Major General Stoneman came up to me and said he was very glad to hear I was so much talked of in connection with this vacancy; that he hoped I would get it, and that he believed the voice of the army would be in my favor. Coming as this does from those who are cognizant of my services, some of whom are themselves candidates, I cannot but regard it as most complimentary and gratifying, and I am sure it will please you. Stoneman also told me that, hearing I had a boy in the Lancers, he had sent for him and introduced him to Mrs. Stoneman. Stoneman also spoke very handsomely of the Lancers, and said he intended they should have full chance to show what they were made of.

Meade’s letter taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 1, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), pp. 364-5. Available via Google Books.